Preparation for the 74 mile McKenzie Pass Road Race was completed the previous night with mechanic Jeff Minor, a.k.a. Rabbit, getting all the bikes dialed in. Meanwhile, I prepared the bottles and helped load up the trailer for an early morning departure. We departed the cabin by 7:30 am and were off to the rental car company to pick up a car that we were going to use as a follow vehicle in the race caravan. We got to the rental car place and they informed us that they didn’t have any vehicles available even though I had a reservation. Their excuse for not having any cars available was that they were expecting two cars to be returned the previous night, but they never showed up.
We then proceed to a different rental car company and they were all booked as well, and didn’t have any cars available. After a quick search, there were no other options to get a car and make it to the start of the race in time, so we were resigned to the fact that we were not going to have a car in the caravan.
After about an hour drive to the race start, we had 45 minutes to get ready for the race. I helped Rabbit quickly unload the trailer and pump up tires. After all the bikes were prepared, I went up to the sign-in table to inform the officials that ELBOWZ Racing would not have a car in the caravan. As I was walking back to the van, team rider Sully found me and said that he found a car that we could use in the caravan. The race was starting in 15 minutes, so I rushed back to the van to grab the cooler of water bottles and spare wheels to make it back to the car in time for the race start. The new plan was for me to drive the borrowed car solo in the caravan, while Rabbit would take the van to the last feed zone of the day.
The race started with overcast skies and temps in the upper 50s. The first 25 miles were all downhill before the riders tackled a 20 mile climb that gained over 3,000 feet of elevation. About 15 miles into the race, I received a request over the race radio for an ELBOWZ rider to drop off some clothing in the team car. Just as I was getting close to Ryan to get his jacket, a massive crash occurred in the peloton and all the team cars came to a stop. I saw that an ELBOWZ rider was involved the crash and when I put the car in park to get out and help, our car got rear-ended by another team car. Luckily, the damage was fairly minor to our car, but I had little time to inspect it because I had to grab some spare wheels and rush to help Joe, our fallen rider. We replaced his front wheel and he and Ryan were able to get back underway. I later found out that Sully was also involved in the crash, but was already on his bike by the time I was there. He suffered a slight injury to his hand and Joe received a long gash to his left calf.
Up the climb, numerous riders were gapped off the group and the caravan was constantly weaving through dropped riders. About three-quarters of the way up, Eric got dropped and I could see Sully about 20 seconds up the road also about to get dropped. I got up to Sully and he and two other riders were fighting to stay in contact. Sully was able to stay within the caravan of cars up to the top of the climb and then he rejoined the group on the decent.
The final finish climb of the day was about six miles long and gained over 1,500 feet. As soon as the climb started, riders were getting dropped and we had to weave through the carnage. I eventually passed Christian in a large group of 20. I then passed Joe, who also lost contact with the front group. I never saw Heath before the finish of climb, so I figured he was having a good ride up the road. Heath ended up finishing 28th a little over a minute behind race winner, Francisco Mancebo.
When we got back to the cabin and I found out that the rental car company had a car available, so I rode my bike 12 miles back into town and picked up the rental car. When I got back to the cabin, Rabbit had all the TT bikes prepped for tomorrow’s time trial. I went right to work getting all the bottles prepped and ready for another day of racing.